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NJ Monthly | Unique Photo 2023 Cover Photo Search

NJ Monthly Photo Contest

NJ Monthly | Award of Excellence

In 2021 my Dad sent me a link to a call for entries to the NJ Monthly and Unique Photo cover contest. He encouraged me to enter. The prizes were substantial and I love both the magazine and the camera store so if nothing else, my submission would be supporting both. So I did it. I entered one of my favorite drone shots. And low and behold I placed first in the aerial category! I won a DRONE! It was awesome and exciting and scary and all the things, but I did it. I put myself out there. I think that when you put yourself out there, you open up the Universe to new opportunities for growth and connection. And you may even give someone else the courage to do the same.

I also think it sends a really imortant message to my sons. It shows them bravery and courage and that their mom is a badass photographer who is making things happen not only for herself, but for them! It gives them a sense of pride and admiration. So do it, put your work out there! Here is the post from that awesome and exciting win for me.

Feelin’ the funk

I didn’t submit anything for 2022. Not sure why exactly, I guess I just didn’t feel compelled to. Maybe it’s because I have felt like I’ve been in a funk for like a year straight. Thinking back, 2022 was a REALLY difficult year for me and my family. My son was having a really hard time in the public school system which translates to me, his momma, ALSO having a very difficult time. It’s been heavy on our shoulders and in our hearts for YEARS. But this year we finally received an out of district placement and it has legitimately been life saving, life giving, for all of us. A completely different experience. He is seen and even APPRECIATED for the wonderful person that he is. Intelligent, kind, compassionate, full of RANDOM FACTS, artistic and not stigmatized, shamed and punished for the areas he lacks.

Getting our lives back…

I feel like I am getting my life back. And so I submitted one of my favorite images from November of last year to NJ Monthly Cover Photo Contest. Baby Ari being held up by her dad. This session was so special for Ari’s family but also for me. Because it showed me COMMUNITY. Something I have been missing. And that actually is very much in part to my son’s challenges. Am I being too vague? My son has ADHD, Anxiety and something called DMDD (Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder). I, myself, have Anxiety. Quite honestly I do believe I have been living with undiagnosed ADHD my entire life.

We have been ostrasized by our community because he is different. Imagine that? Labeling a child at the age of 6 as “bad” and making life even more challenging and lonely for us. Having that label follow him around all through elementary school. A child who has a hard enough time regulating his emotions. In school he was seen as the “bully” and yet children would purposely antagonize him and try to get him to a state of dysregualtion. Even the adults didn’t understand him or give him grace or compassion.

I’m clearly getting off topic, but it’s been a struggle. If someone you know has a child with these disorders, please reach out to them. Ask them if they are okay. See if you can be their community <3

So back to this session 😂

Raise them UP

Crystal and Lamar (Ari’s Parents) wanted to include their COMMUNITY in their photoshoot. Check out their shoot here. My heart exploded into a million pieces during their session. It was incredible how their community SHOWED UP last minute to be a part of this.

But this picture…Lamar wanted to do something like the Statue of Liberty and the Lion King (Ari means Lion). And as soon as he said it I was all in and it was this. It’s amazing. I love it. And I love it for all the reasons.

A man holding up his baby girl – this means so much to me. My dad was a huge supporter of me. He gave me the confidence to follow my dreams. He encouraged me to follow my heart and always believed in me. He was the first man in my life and was an amazing example of how I deserved to be loved and treated. The composition of this image I feel is extremely powerful as is the symbolism. You don’t need to see Lamar’s face in this. We know it is him. But we also know that it could be MANY men who are there, supporting their babies, raising them UP!

And my son(s) thankfully have men like this in their lives. Men who raise them up, lifting them high overhead, giving them the praise and confidence and SUPPORT that they need and that they deserve.

NJ Monthly Cover Search winners

Anyway, I know that this post kind of went off topic (thanks ADHD). But it’s my heart. And I am thankful, grateful and honored to have this image that we made TOGETHER be recognized by the judges, NJ Monthly and Unique Photo. I may not have received the placement on the Cover of this month’s magazine, but what I did receive is priceless. To see the winners and read more about it, hop on over to the NJ Monthly article here.


joan marie

Scotch Plains, NJ 07076

908.312.1788 | info@joanmariephotography.com